“How Can I Spread God’s Message?”
A sermon by parishioner Jessica Moynihan ~
O God, let your words move the hearts of those who hear it. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, we learn more about the history of baptism, and where it all started for us Christians. The first portion of this passage puts us at a point in history. Luke was a historian and was telling us which major rulers were in charge in order to solidify that point in time for us, the reader. But it also points out the fact that there were all of these major people in power, yet the Word of God comes to John the Baptist. And where? Not in Rome, not in the palace, not in the governor’s mansion, but in the wilderness! And the second part is a reference to Isaiah, which is of course an Old Testament prophecy. So, we see John traveling in the wilderness and the areas “around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
In the second part of today’s passage, John speaks using the words of Isaiah. He says: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.” This passage speaks to the future of what’s going to happen: meaning the future to Isaiah, when he proclaimed it centuries before Jesus was around. And also the future of the redemptive work of Christ being done.
Reading ahead a few verses to 21-23, we hear: “When all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.” —
It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the message that God wanted me to tell you today. And it also helped tie my own personal story together. Verses 1-6, our gospel for today, is an introduction, but then we see what I just read, where it led to, Jesus getting baptized, which is when we hear God speaking directly to Jesus telling him WHO he is – His Son – and how LOVED he is. This is an important moment in Christianity for each and every Christian. It’s powerful, it’s meaningful. But why? Because baptism receives its significance from the baptism of Jesus. Heaven opened up when Jesus was baptized, which shows that baptism is not simply a ceremony we perform. It is God who acts in baptism. And God made a public declaration that Jesus is His beloved son. Furthermore, knowing that Jesus started his ministry after his baptism, at the age of 30, hit me hard because I am 30 years old. And I was just baptized earlier this year. Now I would never compare myself to the Son of God. However, I am a devoted Christian, who under God, wants to know how to spread His ministry. So, it made me think about 2 things: “why did I get baptized” and “Now that I am baptized, how can I begin my ministry, spreading His message and doing His work?”
So, “Why did I get baptized?” I was not baptized as an infant, as most Christian children are. My father decided that he didn’t want me to be force fed information regarding the Church and told what to believe. He gave me the choice. Now fast forward to around the holidays and New Year’s last year. I had just gotten married in September, I had just bought a new house, I had and have a great family. All wonderful things, right? But something felt like it was missing. And then I received a Christmas card in the mail, from Christ Church Trumbull. At that moment, it dawned on me, it was God who was missing from my life. He was always there, I was just denying His existence. So, I did my online research of Christ Church and liked what I saw. Therefore, I decided to contact Maryanne asking her to arrange a conversation with Pastor Jane and myself. In our conversations and learning more about Christ, I realized that I NEEDED to be baptized. What a momentous decision that was.
My baptism experience was surreal. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about that moment where God blessed me and I embraced His love. And since then, I have come to embrace God’s love for us all and it has given me peace in many aspects of my life where I once had anxiety. I have learned to look at the beauty of this world and realize that it is all a creation of God for us, and that brings me such joy. And furthermore, I now have all of these beautiful souls in my life. The people of this church, who I have come to care for as friends, and I hope you know that you are all treasures to me and my life. My life has changed SO much for the better because of Pastor Jane, this church, the people who are a part of it, and most importantly, God.
To answer the 2nd question of “How can I spread the message?” We have heard a lot in church about being a good servant, which made me think about the following: I am just one person with a small network, so I can be a faithful Christian by helping change the world with those small acts of kindness that one always hears and talks about. To me, being a faithful Christian does not mean being perfect. It means being kind when people least expect it, it means reaching out a helping hand to someone in need, it means being honest and open about your faith. It means trying your hardest even though some days, that may mean just simply getting out of bed and saying “good morning” to your loved ones. And it also means being able to ask God for help in our times of need and to thank Him for everything he has given us.
So in the week ahead, I encourage you all to think about how being baptized and opening your hearts up to God has changed your life. When did you first have that moment of realizing God’s existence and that you wanted to serve Him? I understand that a lot of Christians were led into Christianity by their parents and families. But I ask you to dig deeper into your relationship with God. Can you remember that exact experience that made you say “God is real, He is here and I love him?”
Next, I want you to think about what being a faithful Christian means to you and what you can do to spread the Word of God in a positive light. A good place to start is praying and meditating on these questions. An additional step would be to reread or watch Ginnie’s sermon from last week. We heard many examples and suggestions of ways to help out those around you who are in need, which will help you to explore the ways in which you can be a faithful Christian. Her sermon is posted on the church website and is available on the church’s YouTube and Facebook pages. I plan to put into action some of Ginnie’s suggestions myself. I will reach out to the ones in my life who are going through a hard time and remind them that they always have a helping hand in me. Furthermore, both Sean and myself have decided to donate to charity this year – our choice this year will be local cat and dog rescues like Kitten Associates and Lucky Dog Refuge.
And my final piece of encouragement is to speak with the resourceful people in your life who can guide you in the right direction of where your talents can come in use within our church and our community. Let us begin the new week with a prayer:
Lord, help us to be the people that you intended for us to be. Help us do what is right by our family and our friends. Help us see what is right and do what is best for the greater good of those around us. Help us to better cope with life when things don’t go the way we would have liked them to. And lastly, help us to take better care of ourselves so that we can be rocks that our families can lean on. In Jesus’ name,